It was May 3, and I pulled out my composition notebook, penned with a definitive “Summer Training 2016” on the front. My goal was to document my training each day, complete with a goal for each run and a Bible verse to meditate on. And so, embracing my small beginning (Zeph. 4:10), I laced my shoes and headed out the door.
But as the training log went on, the pattern became glaringly obvious; The Bible verses said one thing, but my words said another: I wasn’t trusting the Lord. So I ran “easy” runs at a fast clip and I didn’t let my body rest. To serve as example: On May 20, I woke up early and ran 7 miles- I was almost back to 100% mileage that week. I got my wisdom teeth out a few hours later, took two days to rest and then started running again on May 23. Because, Heaven forbid I miss any training. If only I knew then what I know now. If only I’d seen how much my bullheaded-will was dictating what my body & my spirit should have.
Everything went downhill from there. It started with extreme fatigue that lasted a week. “Still feels awful, but I was able to push myself a little harder,” I wrote on May 26.
Wow. Great idea Hannah- push your body harder when it’s seriously lacking in energy.
But this was nothing new for me. In fact, ever since I began treatment for anorexia in January of 2015, excessive movement has been my deepest struggle. How much I ate was always contingent on how move I exercised. So if I met my own requirements, I’d eat all I was supposed to. As you can imagine, when I got a muscle strain after my all-too-hard runs the week after surgery, havoc ensued. Throw in a misdiagnosis and five weeks of no improvement, and I was screwed.
I looked up all the Youtube videos, saw three doctors, tried different remedies. Nothing worked. All the while, my little training journal was gathering dust because I was too disheartened to write down bike rides and swimming as “training.” I was too absorbed in my own pain to write down a daily Bible verse to meditate on. And it went on, as May turned to June and June to July. Friends who had shown initial concern began to forget that I was still in trial- and I can hardly blame them. When others would ask how my training was going, I would mutter something about how I was cross training for “a little while,” or I’d evade the question completely.
At the root of it was this deep fear that God had somehow messed up, big time. I figured that somewhere along the way, He’d forgotten that He called me to run at Butler. That, or maybe He just wanted me to show Christ to my teammates and never get to really compete as the healthy, fast athlete I once was. If we’re being honest, I wasn’t interested in an inspirational story of the failed athlete who shared Jesus. I was compelled by the comeback story, by the prospect of coming out of nowhere to be a champion runner. So, as weeks turned to months, my heart hardened towards the Lord and towards the giddy runners who had no idea how much I had lost.
I thought I was entitled, thought I going to have a summer of epic training that would lead up to a killer cross country season. I mean, I was the undeveloped high school runner who’d overcome anorexia, praised God and returned to school as a healthy athlete. Pardon me, but the plot-line had taken a stark turn from my desired direction.
We all wrestle with holding on to what “should” be. I’ve written about it many times before, and I probably will until I’m a wrinkly & pensive old lady. But once August hit, I had (finally) accepted my new reality: I hadn’t run for the majority of the summer. Whether or not it was fair, that was the truth. And once I accepted that fact, the tears began to flow anew, because I didn’t understand how this was God’s faithfulness in action. It took a while, but I finally received wisdom in the form of two questions:
“Did you really trust Him?” and “Was He faithful?”
I’d wrestled the whole way, but in my imperfection, I had trusted Him. I hadn’t let go and turned away. My heart would harden and soften on a daily basis, but I had pursued Him through it. So, the vital question became: “Was He faithful.” The answer is and was, a resounding YES.
I looked at how far I had come: The extent to which I laid down my alliance with movement and embraced my body for more than just a vessel for running. I looked at the new job I had grown to love, and the coworkers who became friends and didn’t see me as the girl with an eating disorder. Yes, running was temporarily out of the picture, but so was my identity as “the girl who’d had an eating disorder.” And while I long for people to understand the daily struggles I go through in recovery, I simultaneously long to not be viewed in that stigma, to be seen as Hannah. Thanks to the Lord’s grace this summer, I am free of more chains than I’ve ever been.
And when it comes to my running: I realize, with hesitation, that the pressure is off. I’ve surrendered my dreams and goals as a runner and given them to the Lord. The ball is in His court. It’s funny the sense of excitement that comes with such a reality. I’m now the underdog, but I have the God of the universe on my side. So I can’t predict what will happen next, nor can I fein pleasure in the fact that I’m still easing back into running. But what I can proclaim with boldness and assuredness is that the temporary pains will ease and the glory of the Lord will be revealed. It might be the way I want and it might not be.
I can now look at the future though, and say that I’m walking in more freedom than any point in my life. That is more important than summer training. It is more beneficial than 1,000 miles. I truly believe that. And now that I’m to the point I am, I don’t see why I can’t progress forward and have an amazing year of running. I lay the outcomes aside and run in the freedom of a woman who runs with joy and not fear.